On Independence Day, Black militias arise in the United States…As we have been reading about in Black Against Empire, it’s when Black people arm themselves that they get taken seriously by the white establishment…White liberals, of course, begin to get uncomfortable…
Huey Newton and Bobby Seale wanted to organize, locally, to resist police brutality in their Oakland communities. But they needed a method and means. They needed a strategy, something that would work in the Black ghettoes, something that would be effective to combat the all-out racist onslaught of police forces like in Watts where officers on the force called their nightsticks “nigger-knockers.” They needed to catalyze locals, particularly those who ran the streets, the “brothers on the block, the unemployed black men seen on every street of the ghetto, the black underclass. These were the people who faced the brutality of the expanding urban police departments.” It proved challenging. Meanwhile there was police brutality. And more police brutality. Their frustrations mounted. Then, after a riot, new possibilities began to emerge.
It’s my birthday today. I took the day off of work, and I also took a day off from closely monitoring the news, setting out for a hike. It was a wonderful and refreshing hike, up Fireweed Mountain just down the road from my cabin. The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining on us in this magnificent valley, making it feel like a cathedral, surrounded as it is by grand mountains, roaring rivers, and a massive glacial field. But the news cycle caught up with me, and I write this with tears running down my face. It may feel like a cathedral here but there is no sanctuary, no place of escape from the violent karma that is currently raging in our streets. But for many Americans there has never been an escape from police violence.
It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult.
This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities.
It was strange, that moment, but I felt a strong intuition, that this State was home. Reading the placard aroused a desire to live in a place where wilderness is the norm and civilization is the exception. In many ways, this desire summarized my decade. I was landing in Anchorage, soon to be flying to Kodiak, heading into the wild, in ways both literal and metaphorical.
A week from last Saturday was the big kick off push for Bernie Sanders campaign volunteers. There were nearly five thousand gatherings across the country, many that congregated in living rooms and around kitchen tables and private homes, across the fruited plains. There were several in my area and since I wanted to get a pulse on how the campaign was going, I attended three of them.
DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) is the activist organization that I “fuck with,” fuck with being a younger person’s slang/trendy term used to describe the persons/places/things/ideas that one is down with. All fucking aside, I’ve been a member of DSA for a few years now, and currently the national DSA organization is debating whether to formally endorse Bernie in 2020, so at our March organizing meeting here in Santa Cruz we dedicated a good bit of the meeting to discussing the Berning question. For us it’s kind of an odd subject matter because we mostly focus on local politics/activism, not so much on national politics or national issues.
They keep going after her, which is quite remarkable, really, i.e., that a freshman Congressional representative would get this much national attention. There is understandable great consternation and anxiety on the political right about America’s re-awakening and rising sense of class consciousness. Class consciousness seems to be only increasing, which means that in the future Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can expect a lot more intense opposition and hostility than billboards in Times Square.
I recently finished that Ken Burns documentary that I’ve been watching (more on that in another post) and decided to re-read the Vietnam War chapter in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of The United States (more on that in another post), as a follow-up. As can happen, one thing leads to another and before I knew it I was reading Zinn’s chapter/s on the Civil War, which is where I came across the words of Harriet Tubman. Here is the quote, in context:
Per Fox News, President Trump dramatically vowed during his State of the Union address on Tuesday that “America will never be a socialist country,” in an apparent rebuke to self-described Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders that drew loud cheers and a standing ovation from Republicans in the House chamber — as well as supportive applause from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Ocasio-Cortez had the perfect zinger of a response, as usual:
“I thought it was great. I think he’s scared.”
I think it’s great too. I was pretty stoked when I heard that Trump bashed socialism, with the eyes of the nation upon him. Having our tempestuous Tweeter in Chief condemn socialism in the State of the Union Address is the kind of exposure you just can’t buy, which is something that a promotional genius like Trump should be able to appreciate, which of course begs the question: Is Trump, himself, a Socialist? Is he using his plummeting popularity to drive people to socialism?
Activism is good for the soul. I want to change the world, like anyone else, but for me activism is also extremely therapeutic. It reminds me that there are other people who see injustices in the world and believe in their bones that things don’t have to be this way. That’s especially true of big activist events like the Women’s March.
It’s kind of a beautiful thing, to be surrounded by smiling faces and to snap a hundred pictures of the explosion in creativity that surrounds us: all the catchy and colorful signs, the carefully crafted costumes, the music, the chanting, and the chalk art on the streets. Yet in the midst of this exhilarating experience of solidarity, opposition and hostility can sometimes come from unexpected places and from unexpected people.
I came across an article in The Guardian ranking the best albums of 2018. In recent years I’ve drifted father and farther away from new artists and new music and new releases. What better way to remedy the situation than by utilizing the full power of the awesome music library that I have at my disposal (Spotify subscription) to begin updating myself.
Most of the albums on the list display a preference for identity pop or “a fine selection of albums that range from the socially conscious to the political, as well as pure slices of ecstatic rock and cutting rap.”
And so it was that in listening through the list that I came across Chicago native Noname, a talented poet and rapper. I’m quite taken with her 2018 album Room 25. The album starts out with a bang. Here are the first two tracks, Self and Blaxploitation.
Good reading in The Atlantic on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. It highlights one of the overarching differences in the political strategy of the old Democrats (Obama/Clintons) versus the new progressive/leftist breed. The difference isn’t so much about policies as it is about how these policies are framed. The new progressive wave is based more on story and narrative, and this makes it an exciting time to be on the left because the leaders of the movement are appealing to something that can inspire a movement. It’s an approach that could win, and that means there is hope.